Snow season is not too far off and now West Hartford is clearing the streets of outdoor eating areas that were launched during the pandemic.
“A little chilly but fine. We had the nice fire lamp,” said Jennifer Meehan of Fairfield.
On Sunday, Meehan and her friend Julie Armstrong grabbed lunch outdoors in West Hartford.
“Especially with the uptick right now in cases and we have some family members who are compromised, younger kids, so just if we can take advantage of the opportunity to be outside, why not?” said Julie Armstrong of Avon.
Now some restaurants are losing an outside option.
On-street dining areas need to be packed up as the town prepares for the winter weather season and barriers will start being removed on Monday.
“It was a little heartbreaking,” said Joshua Batista, Union Kitchen general manager.
Batista said they were doing well with the additional seating that was successfully launched in town during the pandemic.
Now, Batista said they’re losing about a dozen tables and having to deal with reduced indoor capacity at 50% under the state’s Phase 2.1 rules.
“We were fortunate enough right after Halloween to have a really good boost in spring-like weather which helped everyone to sit out here. But this past weekend has just been dropping and everyone is requesting and making reservations for indoors to avoid being outside,” said Batista.
Batista said they’re already thinking about the winter and scaling back service, possibly cutting staff and even the potential of being forced to go to take-out only.
“We don’t want to envision it realistically. But if it comes to it we will have to do it,” said Batista.
For now, they and other restaurants will keep their patio dining going as long as possible.
“Probably short of bitter cold and snow we probably keep coming out and supporting restaurants,” said Julie Armstrong.
The town is allowing restaurants to enclose their outdoor eating to essentially expand what would be considered their indoor capacity.
Both the town and restaurants are hoping to bring back the on-street option in the future, though it could require a zoning change.